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Lesser Spotted Tribes in Trumpland

Most commentators and publications have done a passable job of interrogating exit polls, county-by-county results, and other figures in search of an answer to the question ‘who in the hell voted for Donald Trump?’

In general, their big reveal boils down to a not so subtle and slightly underwhelming ‘poor white people’. You know, hillbillies and trailer trash and rednecks. And that’s where they stop. They don’t talk about globalisation or trade or inequality or poverty or unemployment or college tuition or the decline of community or the unbearable emptiness of Hillary Clinton. They don’t have to; they’ve got their own dog whistles and money in the bank, thank you very much!

For reasons I can’t quite fathom, they’re always punching down, and in the process, they’re letting individuals and groups with actual power and influence off the hook. So, in the spirit of fairness, let’s take a look at two lesser spotted tribes that have shaped and sustained the Trump-phenomenon.

First off, there’s the diverse bunch of people who look at Trump’s disjointed and ever-shifting platform and see one or two policies that they like. Conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan, for instance, has thrown his weight behind the Trump campaign because he sees it as a champion of good-old fashioned protectionism. Crispin Rovere of The National Interest, meanwhile, has been flying the flag for Trump on account of his supposed realist foreign policy credentials.

Pick any issue and you’ll find a similar story.

Now, whether Mr. Trump is a bona fide protectionist or realist or pro-lifer doesn’t really matter. After all, his policies essentially appear to be a function of his mood or the audience before him. The point is that America’s marketplace of ideas has been so bare since Ross Perot came and went, that people with views outside the mainstream are willing to project all their hopes and fears onto the ‘The Donald’, for lack of a better alternative. Sure, he might be intemperate, megalomaniacal, and prone to changing his mind at the drop of a hat, and sure, he might be a little light on detail, but that’s a small price to pay if you’re going to get your first pick. Up until now the Trump campaign has been a sort of political Rorschach inkblot, and it’s worked like a charm.

Second, then, there’s the folks—mostly white, mostly wealthy, mostly men, mostly Baby Boomers—who used to have everything but now (in relative terms) have slightly less than everything. J.G. Ballard was an expert in the habits and behaviours of these people, the middle and upper strata of society, and he would have recognised their current predicament. Used to seeing themselves on television, in board rooms, in the White House, and so on, the past few decades have come as something of a shock, what with the steady encroachment of blacks, browns, Asians, Hispanics, Jews, gays, women, and gender-benders into their spheres of influence.

Not so long ago, it was possible to get on with your life without having to contemplate urban poverty, or the tragedy of African American history, or the fact that the civil rights movement is still a thing because racism, structural or otherwise, is still a thing. But now you can’t turn on the TV without coming across a black president or a Black Lives Matter banner or a homoerotic sub-plot.

Why are they always complaining? What else do they want? Don’t they realise you have to work hard, like we did, to get anywhere in life? These 47 percenters want everything handed to them on a plate! And who ends up paying for it? We do!

From its vantage point, this self-declared precariat, always squinting over its shoulder, sees Trump as a straight talker who’s going to cut through all the crap and whining and Make America Great Again, like it was in the fifties, before everything got so complicated. No Federal minimum wage, no affirmative action, no anti-discrimination laws, and on and on.

They don’t have time for pussyfooting around, so when Trump bashes China, Mexico, Cuba, immigrants, Muslims, political correctness, the Pope, the disabled, and the fifty percent of the population who menstruate, a loud cheer can be heard in self-contained suburbs from Miami to Buffalo.

There’s a latent violence behind all this, and you saw it up close at Trump’s campaign events, where opponents were set upon like rabid dogs. To be sure, the more outrageous and crude Trump becomes, the more adulation he receives from the angry upper-middle. Even the man himself recognised this, going as far as to tell a campaign rally in Iowa that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

There was a time when such proclamations of madness would have put paid to a prospective nominee’s run. That was then.

What is it Miranda says in ‘The Tempest’?

“O brave new world

That has such people in it!”

 

Image by kim.stovring

The featured image is an 1828 painting by Thomas Cole entitled ‘Expulsion from the Garden of Eden’. 


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James A. Chisem is a freelance writer based in the UK. He writes about history, foreign policy, and football (or soccer, to some). His work has been published by International Policy Digest, e-International Relations, and Atlantic Bulletin. ...more →

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166 thoughts on “Lesser Spotted Tribes in Trumpland

    • There is a kernel of truth here.
      However, you have to dig deep to find it.

      The only things the Left seems to be able to consider are racism and temperament.

      As far as temperament goes, it seems obvious that the man knows how to play to an audience, and knows his limits.
      This is in contrast to those critics on the Left, tone deaf to their prospective audience, and entirely oblivious to where their limits lie.

      If you really want a good perspective on Trumpism, you can try here.

      I leave it with that.

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      • The Dems really did put all their eggs in the racism and temperament basket. Only 9 percent of Clinton ads were about jobs or the economy. Nearly all of the ones I saw were of the “but children are watching!” variety.

        If you don’t accept the premise that Trump is beyond the pale (which is to say, if you’re a persuadable voter), this does very little. It’s almost like they were designed for liberals to share with each other under headlines about how it “destroyed” Trump, just like all those John Oliver segments.

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        • If you don’t think the ads were focus-group tested on Republicans you’re nuts. The campaign was designed with the thinking that if a person says “I could never vote for a misogynist, moral character is very important to me” and then is shown an example of the candidate’s misogyny, and then says in a focus group that the ad makes them more likely to stay home – that such a person would indeed stay home.

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          • How effective will exclusively focusing on character issues be coming from a candidate widely regarded as having character issues?

            {{Can we officially call that “The Clinton Bubble”?}}

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            • Apparently it was much less effective than anticipated. I just don’t buy the argument that a national campaign with a massive data team was ignorant of political realities because they were watching Samantha Bee or whatever. Lots of smart people with a vested interested in making good predictions developed models that turned out to make bad predictions because of a systematic misunderstanding of of human behavior. I don’t know how to criticize that without relying on hindsight.

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              • trizz,
                You’re wrong on this one. Have you seen Clinton’s Pied Piper Strategy? She promised tons of leftie media “performance bonuses” if she got elected.

                These people had vested interest in getting her elected. That’s it. (And Clinton’s team started flipping on Nate Silver for even daring to give Trump a 20% chance to win). “Clinton is inevitable” was a bought and paid for strategem of the Clinton Team.

                (Also, Clinton fired the guy who knew she’d lose Wisconsin if she didn’t campaign there.)

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              • It’s not that they were taking cues from Samantha Bee, it’s just that everyone around them thought Trump’s behavior was so beyond the pale that voters would only pick him if they were either personally loathsome or somehow misinformed as to how he carries himself.

                It’s easy enough to get Trump voters to express dislike, or even disgust, at this or that Trump outrage. I’ve read it dozens of times. But it didn’t rise to the level of dealbreaker in the absence of a good reason to vote for Clinton. As best I can tell, her positive appeal was:

                1. A blizzard of policy papers that nobody would ever read

                2. It was her turn and why can’t you just recognize that (“Ready for Hillary”)

                3. Vague pop-feminism (Katy Perry’s milquetoast anthem, “I’m With Her,” dreadful unaffiliated surrogates doling out charges of mysogyny like AOL CDs)

                4. She is the candidate that is not Trump.

                All of these are fine if you really believe that’s all it takes. Which, clearly, it was not.

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                • Isn’t this a game that you can play with any candidate’s message, though? I’ve certainly heard glosses of Obama’s campaign in 08 that are even more unappealing. And to a certain extent that’s accurate, because different voters hear different things. But if LBJ could win a landslide with “he won’t blow us all up” and Reagan could win with “he won’t sell you out to the Communists” then it was hardly crazy to think “she’s not a serial rapist” could work for Clinton. Until the Comey letter, all the evidence suggested that it was working.

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                  • It wasn’t crazy. LBJ and Reagan had some other things going on, and the Cold War lens is a bit different than our current era, but your point is well-taken.

                    However, I think it was clear earlier on that the “come on, you can’t be serious” line of attack wasn’t working like it had on Goldwater and the campaign was blind to it because they simply couldn’t comprehend the logic of the other side.

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                    • Sure. I think most of what I’m reacting to is that a candidates messaging is always so impressionistic that there’s no way to be even remotely empirical about what has what effect, and those impressions always veer wildly based upon the bare outcome and nothing else. If a basketball team misses a jump shot on the buzzer that had a 60% chance, and loses, they’re fools and idiots. If the shot goes in, they’re all geniuses. The same thing happens with post-election discussion of political campaigns. So insofar as the argument is that the Dems should have nominated someone different or that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t have kept her emails on a private server or that the subsidies in the ACA should have been more generous, I can go along with that. But if we’re arguing about what kind of ads she should have been running the weekend before the election, I think we need to acknowledge that we’re all just guessing.

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                      • Well yeah, a butterfly could have flapped its wings in the Amazon and we could have had different results in a few major swing states. But that’s how post-mortems are done. To do otherwise for ad strategy would be to essentially hold it above critique.

                        It’s kind of like how the margin of error on an exit poll is the difference between “the gender gap wasn’t wide enough to beat the dudebros” and “if you’re a white woman who voted for Hillary and you aren’t willing to take on collective guilt for your race/gender combo, you’re part of the problem.”

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                  • Don,
                    Obama at least campaigned on “save the economy!”
                    And anti Iraq War, and a few other MAIN ISSUES like health care.

                    You can’t really say Hillary campaigned on, well, anything, really, other than Identity Politics and I hate the Other Guy.

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                • Agreed. (I mean, I could say more, but you hit the main points quite nicely.)

                  When honest historians write about Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 P election, Hillary’s role will be prominently portrayed. Unfavorably!

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                • I agree with a lot of this. My point is just to temper some of the “perception bubble” criticism that is being used an explain-all. Clinton didn’t make her ad campaign about Trump’s negatives because she was in a bubble, she did it because the voters told her that’s what was working. Across many different polls and statistical models both within and outside the campaign. Remember, Clinton is the weathervane that focus-groups how to cough right. If the polling was telling Robby Mook that pussy grabbing was in, you bet your ass he’d have Clinton out there grabbing pussy with the best of ’em and Bill spinning stories about how they grabbed pussy together in college.

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                  • Clinton didn’t make her ad campaign about Trump’s negatives because she was in a bubble, she did it because the voters told her that’s what was working.

                    Maybe the “bubble” was thinking that those folks were a reliable indicator when clearly they weren’t. Which is indicative of a Triangulator, no? They can’t think outside their three pointed box.

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                    • Good data can be misinterpreted. I wasn’t there when the Clinton team was parsing all of this, but I can see how motivated reasoning and a blinkered worldview can draw bad conclusions from all that focus groupery.

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                      • Fair enough. “Clinton’s team was competent along a narrow set of parameters.”

                        I’m actually OK with that.

                        And perhaps – given her unfavorables and so on – they were necessarily constrained to a narrow set of parameters when determining campaign tactics. In which case it’s possible that she/they overachieved!!

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                      • LTL,
                        Except the Clinton team had a decent prediction of her losing the Midwest. Complete with a step by step, this is how you’re going to do it.

                        That speaks to a bubble, and to the data analysts being ignored because “Hillary doesn’t want to campaign” (half of October spent not campaigning? NOBODY does that, not even Romney on his bus).

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                  • Clinton didn’t make her ad campaign about Trump’s negatives because she was in a bubble, she did it because the voters told her that’s what was working. Across many different polls and statistical models both within and outside the campaign.

                    If they had asked… Presumably the people running those polls and models were the same ones two years ago who told Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado (and associated PACs) that pushing nothing but the “Cory Gardner will take away women’s reproductive health care rights” was winning. Finally, at the last minute, they finally started saying something positive about Udall. He lost.

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                    • One of the lessons of this campaign is that the polls can be systematically biased in a way that significantly exaggerates the distance between the candidates, especially in a split PV/EV scenario. As far as I know this was not well appreciated prior to the election and most such claims were speculative (either “look at all the Trump lawn signs” type or “wouldn’t this poll bias be a crazy perfect storm” type). This is probably due to the fact that we just had an election where “polls are biased” thinking proved disastrously inaccurate.

                      It’s also why the “you miscalled the election because you’re stuck in a bubble” argument still makes no sense to me. There’s no amount of interaction with ordinary folks that would have lead me to trusting lawn signs over statistical models.

                      I prefer the “you allowed structural failures of messaging and policy to put this election within striking distance for Trump because you’re stuck in a bubble” argument myself.

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            • Sigh…..Her strategy worked well enough to get 2% more popular vote. That part of the strategy worked just fine and dandy. Her more critical, and frankly, more blatantly stupid unforced errors were in assuming she had the rust belt states in the bag so she didn’t put out effort there.

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              • greg,
                Note more people voted against her than for her. I don’t call that winning the popular vote.
                If Clinton had listened to her more intelligent staffers, she’d have been elected. Instead, she fired them.

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                • Gaelen,
                  My friend the pollster says that the Rust Belt figured that Trump made a nice $5 lottery ticket (probably not gonna get anything, but ain’t wasting much money either). They figured that Hillary was like taking that $5 and setting it on fire.

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                  • I’m not sure what this means, but it’s a fact that Trump gave lots attention to the rustbelt while Hillary largely ignored it. This was especially true during the last week or so when all the “smart guys” were puzzled that Trump was campaigning against hopeless odds there.

                    Whether he knew something Hillary’s team (and pollsters generally) didn’t know or he felt that was his last, best, only hope to overcome a historically insurmountable deficit only history might reveal. But the fact is Hillary abandoned those states, even while Trump was aggressively trying to win them. Her disregard and lack of response speaks volumes about her campaign, her focus and the team she assembled.

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                      • There is no Democratic campaigning for president in California.
                        California would not go to the Republican were the Dems to name bin Laden as their candidate.
                        They would rather willingly vote for a corpse than to permit the R to win the state.

                        What Clinton was doing was fundraising.
                        There was no campaigning in California.

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                        • That’s just lazy.

                          “Lazy” is something she’s not. That leaves… what? Serious health problem? Prepping for the debates? Micromanagement of staff?

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          • The two views are not inconsistent with one another:

            : they were designed for liberals to share with each other

            : The campaign was designed with the thinking that if a person says “I could never vote for a misogynist, moral character is very important to me” and then is shown an example of the candidate’s misogyny, and then says in a focus group that the ad makes them more likely to stay home

            I was waiting to see how long it would take for you to see how these arguments intermesh with one another.

            Do you say the elephant is like a rope?

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  1. “Not so long ago, it was possible to get on with your life without having to contemplate urban poverty, or the tragedy of African American history, or the fact that the civil rights movement is still a thing because racism, structural or otherwise, is still a thing”

    You know, that’s STILL true. How do you do it? Easy-don’t watch the news, don’t go into the big cities, hangout with your own kind (race, social economic, political, etc.) I LIVE in a state like that; it’s just that it’s the reverse bubble of leftists and liberals, most who haven’t worked with their hands, worked on the line, worked on a farm, ever.

    We’ve been talking about race for a long time, and I’ve always wondered, even when growing up, what the deal was, especially as it comes to employment. I want the most qualified person for any open slots because that’s what helps may my company be successful. I don’t care if they are black, white, disabled, female, trans, gay or whatever, and I don’t want idiots saying stupid stuff distracting them from designing products.

    My objection to Obama was that I didn’t think a one terms senator had experience to be president, but the other candidates, while more qualified experience wise, sucked just as bad. Racism? Sexism? Nope.

    And who doesn’t want to keep more of their OWN money? Maybe I’m tired of seeing it taken away and giving to people/programs and getting nothing out of it. We’ve had the same problems of homelessness, poverty, etc. forever and it’s not getting fixed or getting worse.

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    • Damon,
      See, when you talk with libertarians, they often say “why let the government do this?” instead of charity (because, I suppose, they blaunch at actually saying “homeless people on the street deserve to lose feet from lack of socks”).

      But I don’t see charity as doing any better than government. In fact, it generally does worse (government has a vested interest in hiring good logisticians, so I believe that government Could Do Better, whereas charities are still using freaking slide rules because nobody wants to actually tell grannie that there’s a better way.)

      “I want the best worker” is a fine thing to say — but have you created a climate where the best worker wants to show up? Believe it or not, the Federal Government does that, in the sciences at least — it has a workplace culture of accepting a lot of diversity, and so gets a better cut of people than they otherwise would. (Scientists are a “hire them all” sort of deal for the Federal government, this isn’t quota territory. You show up, you get hired).

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      • “but have you created a climate where the best worker wants to show up? ”

        I think we have, given some limitations. We’re not cutting edge tech, and the engineers here are in demand, and there is some churn, and everyone has development challenges, but generally, I think “yes” is true.

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      • I don’t see where govenrment making it illegal to be homeless has helped the situation improve. When you parse charity versus government help it may also be useful to see the optics of how charity is distributed in population centers versus non-population centers. At some population X homeless people are actually seen, instead of being part of the landscape.

        Also when capital formation reaches some threshold in local environments it becomes much easier to become charitable. Parasitic states tend to vacuum up that capital formation making well, damn near everyone less charitable, and probably adds to the homeless problem.

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        • Joe,
          The homeless in particular are a special case — you have your grifters (who half the time aren’t homeless, just skilled at getting money), and then you have your true “we don’t feel safe indoors” folks. You don’t actually see the true homeless unless you’re out late at night when they’re dumpster diving, or you know where they live.

          Charities can be parasitic, or at best “doesn’t do anyone a lick of good at solving the fucking problem.” Charities rarely exist to Solve Things. they exist to be seen Doing Something, but not actually solving things. (solving things puts the charity mostly out of business).

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          • Pretty much agree here, the only footnote I would place is I am rather picky when it comes to social groups coming up with solutions. No surprise I guess, for me it always looks less dangerous when charity is a individual construct and the solution is a offer, not a demand.

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      • Kim: government has a vested interest in hiring good logisticians, so I believe that government Could Do Better, whereas charities are still using freaking slide rules because nobody wants to actually tell grannie that there’s a better way

        This is funny, in light of the McKinsey Pentagon report, flawed as it may be. Though you’re right about how most church groups keep their books. (But not literal slide rules, just the desktop electronic calculators with paper tape, nary an electronic spreadsheet in sight)

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        • K,
          The military still has the best logisticians, bar none. (Yes, I freely admit bias here. They aren’t the only people who hire the best, but they do hire them).

          Props to whomever leaked that Pentagon Report!

          My friend the logistician really did help make slide rules obsolete for a couple of charities.

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    • “You know, that’s STILL true. How do you do it? Easy-don’t watch the news, don’t go into the big cities, hangout with your own kind (race, social economic, political, etc.) I LIVE in a state like that; it’s just that it’s the reverse bubble of leftists and liberals, most who haven’t worked with their hands, worked on the line, worked on a farm, ever.”

      Absolutely true. I see this constantly.

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    • It’s just that it’s the reverse bubble of leftists and liberals, most who haven’t worked with their hands, worked on the line, worked on a farm, ever.

      You know, next to James and Jason, both of whom are gone, you are probably the one most consistent voice on the blog for “don’t tell libertarians who libertarians are”. Aside from the version of leftists and liberals that you see on the teevee and the circle of them that you know in real life, do you actually have anything… you know… concrete… to back this up? (The farm bit is a pretty funny specific call-out, given that farm work as a job sector has declined to the point that almost nobody works on a farm any more of any political stripe, even in ag-heavy states).

      I want the most qualified person for any open slots because that’s what helps may my company be successful. I don’t care if they are black, white, disabled, female, trans, gay or whatever

      After this election, I am totally okay with saying that we’ve gone and taken the myth that America is a meritocracy out back and put two in the head and three in the pump.

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      • I want the most qualified person for any open slots because that’s what helps may my company be successful. I don’t care if they are black, white, disabled, female, trans, gay or whatever

        If you actually want the most qualified person, knowing discrimination impacts many hiring decisions would be useful to know and keep in mind as you judge applicants. Basically, many people (possibly including yourself) are more likely to discount applicants with African Americans names.

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  2. Another essay I read described this election as a victory for people who were upset that it is now unacceptable to call female colleagues “sweetheart.”

    Trump’s victory was done hugely bob the white vote. The only white groups that did not vote for him were women with college degrees (narrowly) and whites with advanced degrees (who have been trending liberal for a while.)

    The right-wing in the United States is much better at tactical and strategic voting than the left unfortunately. More Evangelicals voted for Trump than any previous candidate. They had one thing in mind and that was getting the courts. Too many on the left declared they could not vote for HRC because of vague reasons filled with inchoate charges. The left seems to have a need to feel pure and good about their votes instead of getting policies they want enacted.

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    • Many people on the Left also seem to have adopted the belief that the best way to convince people is to tell them to shut up and listen in belief that this will cause a great understanding.

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    • Another essay I read described this election as a victory for people who were upset that it is now unacceptable to call female colleagues “sweetheart.”

      That must have been a very insightful and reflective essay.

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      • It could be but you need a link to determine this. I’m getting cynical about a lot of modern gender relation norms to though. They seem to be applied very selectively. For every woman who hates men that call women in the office sweethearts, there seem to be other women that believe men who try to follow modern norms are wimps. Sometimes you get the same behavior in one person.

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        • Lee,
          I could explain gender relations to you, but first you’d have to accept that, deep below the Emperor’s Clothes, we’re really just animals pretending very very hard to be civilized.

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          • I’d love to see an essay that explains Lee’s observations from your premise. It sounds like it might echo my own painfully acquired understanding, which I’ve yet to find well articulated anywhere.

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            • You’d probably be interested in the research on the subject, though a lot of it is either military or clandestine in nature. (of course, you then get the “we finished the clandestine research and can now publish a Real Paper” — there was one a few years back about how rape stimulates ovulation.)

              We like to pretend that everyone’s equal (Race and Sex and all that jazz). It’s just simply not true. Sure, we probably ought to give most people the same legal rights (except for the people who fail to develop a brain structure capable of verbal communication)… but if you aren’t aware of the differences, then you’re not going to understand significant facets of human behavior.

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              • Danger danger danger danger danger

                Down this path lie places you do not want to go.

                Also down this path lie places that will get your comments here censored and invoke imposition of other forms of commenter discipline.

                Proceed, if at all, with extreme caution and thoughtfulness.

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                  • Don,
                    I apologize for somewhat awkward wordchoice.

                    In the next 100 years, America will be unable to support 2/3rds of its current population. If I’m willing to advocate against all immigration (and the subsequent deaths that will cause), I’m willing to start considering “who should die” (or, if you like the polite version, who should not be reproducing).

                    Just because the choices are unpleasant, mean and frankly nasty, doesn’t mean that I don’t think that we should be prepared to make them (in no small part because if we don’t make decisions, well, we have a history of knowing who wins then).

                    Just because I said that they do not deserve the same rights does not mean that we do not have duties towards them. Rights are mutual things that moral individuals agree to respect in other people. If one has a person incapable of understanding morality, then one has a different problem than the actively immoral, no?

                    This, too, is an argument on what “brain dead” actually means. (And, I do know someone whose native language is pictoral in nature. I am aware that one can communicate proficiently without using words). I meant precisely what I said, which has a lot to do with the scientific research.

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                      • I agree. Far rather talk about vore than snuff porn.
                        (Oh, how did we get to snuff porn? Well, funny thing about all these kids getting murdered at $40,000 a pop…)

                        It’s not the law that’s going after these folks, kids. I may not support vigilante justice in a lot of cases, but I’m finding it kind of workable here, given the inability of the law to actually put these “murderers for hire” in jail.

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                • Appreciate the warning. I’ll try to cite sources where I can (not The Bell Curve), and stick to the facts as I understand them.

                  (and I’ll try, as much as is practical, to stay out of the offensive things. I’d wager people are less likely to get upset about a discussion of why people find watching others be consumed alive to be something that brings copulation to mind — than discussing “racial” variance).

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          • I remain confident that we’ll all be saying “but I don’t know anyone who voted for him!” in 2020 as well.

            My vote is up for grabs.

            He’ll remain vulgar and unstable… but effective management can counter a lot and his transition team seems to be selected for competence and experience rather than but-kissing.

            Trump is already walking back a lot of his crazier ideas, if they turn out to just be entertainment-for-the-masses then I’ll know to ignore them in the future.

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              • He couldn’t have meant all those things he said.

                He doesn’t have an ideology and he’s said everything on every issue, so probably not. In four years he’ll have a track record, the press and Dems are predicting a monster, I view that as possible but unlikely.

                It’s not like he’s ignorant and pigheaded.

                Ignorant and pigheaded I don’t hold against him, the interesting question is how effective is he. For example I doubt he knew any of the names on his SC list, but who did the heavy lifting on the greatest-SC-list-ever is irrelevant.

                The answer to many problems is “find smart people, put them in charge, fire them if they can’t actually do the job”, i.e. manage effectively.

                That, by itself, might make the gov work a lot better and translate into more growth.

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          • Honestly, as far as I know I don’t. That’s because I live in the smug Bay Area. If I lived in, say, Oklahoma, and didn’t know anyone who voted for her, it would be because I was a real American.

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            • You’re laying your point on a bit thick, I think. Argument by one-liner has its place, but it’s possible to overdo it.. There are probably too many people focusing on liberal “smugness,” but here at OT it seems to be liberals who are bringing it up (as something to criticize) as much as it is non-liberals. That might be my confirmation bias kicking in and maybe my reckoning of who brings it up more is wrong. But that’s how it seems.

              I imagine that in the “smug Bay area,” there are some who are wary of disclosing they voted for Trump. You may have met some of them, but if you act in real life as you do online, I don’t blame them for not telling you. (For what it’s worth, I assume you’re a much nicer person in real life. I hope I’m a lot nicer than my online persona, but I’m a poor judge of my own cause.) I suspect the same is true here in Big City. I know no one here who has disclosed to me their vote for Trump. But as I understand, about 16% or so of the city’s residents did indeed vote for him.

              Your overall joust is probably right, though. People like me are too willing to believe the “they’re smug” argument, just like some people rely too much on the “they’re anti-intellectual” argument. If I take my blinders off and set aside my priors and then read that New Republic article, I can see where that author is coming from.

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      • the problem with the piece is that it considers a particular kind of response infantile when half of the country has that response and he doesnt think he is condescending to that half.

        The fact of the matter is that there are smug liberals.

        A professor I deeply respect basically said that since it only takes 5 minutes thought to know that christianity is rubbish, if we could take a church and use it to house homeless people we should.

        Leaving aside the property rights issues, there is very clearly a largely atheist/agnostic left which regards many of the cherished beliefs of ordinary citizens as largely rubbish. Not just merely wrong, but wrong in a way that could be corrected with some minimal amount of serious thought. We know there are condescending liberals. Hell I’m a condescending libertarian.

        People seem to think that “they really are despicable” is a response to “you’re being condescending to them”. Perhaps lefties should learn a little political correctness and not say aloud that conservatives are really just stupid, misinformed and evil (even if it is true)

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        • That sort of ignores the fact that, well, the other side condescends right back.

          I’ve grown up hearing about “smug, urban elites” and “yuppies” as well as “flyover country” and “hillbillies”.

          I actually hear more about those darn smug liberals (often FROM liberals) than about the hillbillies, to be honest. But again — Texas here.

          The rural/urban divide is very old and very bitter, and frankly I think the rural folks have always had the slight PR edge — after all “small town” or “country” American is generally default America in a way.

          I’ve often wondered if the need for heavy subsidies of rural areas has been part of what’s kept the bitterness simmering. It’s got to be…vexing…to hold a self-image of rugged individualism and self-reliance while taking those city dollars to bring in power, water, and roads. OTOH, crop subsidies have never seemed to count as welfare so maybe not.

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        • Eh, one of my rules of thumb anymore is “does reading this make me feel good and like I don’t have to change?” and, from there, coming to the conclusion that if the answer is “yes”, then the article is flattering me.

          It’s been a rough couple of months.

          It’s nice to be flattered from time to time.

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          • Eh, one of my rules of thumb anymore is “does reading this make me feel good and like I don’t have to change?” and, from there, coming to the conclusion that if the answer is “yes”, then the article is flattering me.

            I’ve never seen a better explanation of the appeal of Ayn Rand.

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            • One of us clearly doesn’t understand the appeal of Ayn Rand. Since I actually liked her books, I suspect it’s you. Rand’s characters were world-class badasses. They weren’t just above average; they were the best of the best. The message I got from Rand wasn’t that I was awesome and should never change; it was that I needed to up my game.

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      • Exit polls are just polls. They’re polls of the people who actually voted, which eliminates one possible cause of inaccuracy, but they’re still subject to the problems of sampling size, response rate, et cetera, that all polls suffer from. It’s been driving me crazy this time around: I keep seeing things like “Trump won 1% more of the Hispanic vote than Romney”. There’s no way you could know that.

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        • Exit polls are also, in America, really bad. Big giant error bars, because random sampling is difficult and it’s easy to get self-selecting samples — because you’re stopping voters on the way out and physically talking to them or getting them to fill things out.

          A lot won’t bother. The more partisan or enthusiastic will.

          In some other countries (especially those being monitored for election problems), you have far more stringent exit polling designed to deal with that.

          I’m not saying they’re routinely 40% off in America or anything, but I would be really leery of the accuracy of the smaller respondent groups.

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  3. If you think that all upper class older white men have the same collection of prejudices and bigotries, and that the entire collection of prejudices and bigotries was the force that guided Trump’s proton torpedoes into the exhaust port of the Electoral College, then you haven’t really analyzed the situation very well. Nor have you really examined your own preconceptions.

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  4. Well I hope this post was cathartic because I am dubious it’ll be helpful in any other way. Then again catharsis is healthy so there’s that.

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    • A lot of us are rather tired of how these things are one way streets though and as Morat said above, we are tired of it being just accepted at face value that liberal=smug. Liberalism seems to be the damned if you do, damned if you don’t philosophy.

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      • It’s more a heads I win, tails you lose sort of thing. :)

        And remember, deficits don’t matter until Democrats control a federal branch again. In which case, they will have to prove they’re serious by cutting SS and Medicare first.

        Otherwise, how could you trust them tax and spend liberals?

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        • I know I’m going to draw the ire of the BSDI denialists, but BSDI. Democrats were railing against the deficit when Bush cut taxes, but as soon as they got into power, they started writing sonnets about how much they loved deficit spending.

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            • I couldn’t tell the difference between “fiscal stimulus” and “pork barrel spending to the politically favored”. I also have serious doubts of the marginal value of the later.

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          • Sure both sides use the subject as a cudget but the Dems never shut down the government over it, nor used it as a fig leaf for blanket lockstep opposition to the Dems. Also the Dems don’t have it as a central plank of their political ideology. So while BSDI the GOP, unlike the Dems, are also massive hypocrites when they do it in addition to being political opportunists (which both sides rightly are).

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          • The ACA was written as budget neutral. Obama and the Democrats talked about this a lot as an important feature. In doing so, they acknowledged the fact that new programs have trade-offs that have to be balanced and that there’s no free lunch. If you want the government to do something for you, that money comes from somewhere. When was the last time the GOP talked this way about a program they were passing? “It’ll pay for itself” has been their mantra for decades.

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            • Well, Jaybird said that Obama supporters said that Cheney said that Reagan said that deficits don’t matter. Which is true. Reagan said what Cheney said what Obama supporters said what Jaybird said they all said.

              I guess the ACA being deficit neutral is just another political football to kick around. {{Stillwater said that trizzlor said that the OMB said that the ACA was deficit neutral…)

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          • Democrats were railing against the deficit when Bush cut taxes, but as soon as they got into power, they started writing sonnets about how much they loved deficit spending.

            I’m gonna be one of the railers, since writing sonnets is exactly NOT equivalent to deficit spending. (Departments studying this stuff aren’t even in the same building on campus.)

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      • Dude. If you’re getting tired of telling stories that all have one-dimensional liberal heroes giving and giving and one-dimensional racist bad guys who call you “smug” for no good reason, isn’t that a sign that even you are realizing that the stories are bad political fanfic?

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      • A lot of us are rather tired of how these things are one way streets though and as Morat said above, we are tired of it being just accepted at face value that liberal=smug. Liberalism seems to be the damned if you do, damned if you don’t philosophy.

        Urban liberals are the most discriminated-against group in America!

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        • Pointing out that disdain is quite bilateral on this subject is hardly “most discriminated against”.

          Your response reads like a deflection — do you not want to address the topic, preferring simple strawmen?

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              • It’s not that Morat. It’s that urban liberal (professionals!) are probably the most advantaged group of individuals in the US of A, and to hear one of them get pissy because less advantaged groups call them “smug” strikes me as taking the substantive part of the debate to it’s lowest level.

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                • So you’re just absolutely ignoring the point in order to get digs in?

                  Or have you never actually interacted with the people that disdain city folk?

                  I mean that is kinda the point — it’s a nicely bilateral disdain and contempt that’s been there for a century or two, but you seem absolutely uncaring about half of it.

                  Why is that? Are the country folk just so clearly superior that they’re right? Or are the city folk so clearly superior they’re punching down? And if you believe that, aren’t you looking down on the rural folks yourself?

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                • — Rush Limbaugh is poor and rural? His listeners?

                  As I wrote earlier, your median Trump voter is a white dude from the exurbs with an above average income. He’s no more rural nor working class than me.

                  Honestly, if some West Virginia coal miner thinks I’m a jerk, I can roll with that. I mean, honestly, if they can deal with the fact I’m trans, we might get along fine. I dunno.

                  My brother is a fireman. My sister lives in North Carolina, works as an EMT, and raises rabbits. My folks grew up in Eaton Ohio. Grandpa #1 was a baker. Grampa #2 worked over in Dayton, on the factory floor for Frigidaire.

                  I don’t know much about fishing, but I like rock and roll. I’ve melted and cast bullets (from lead wheel-weights), which I’ve fired from my own flintlock rifle. So yeah. I’ve been in fistfights that I won.

                  Anyway, what does this have to do with all the homophobic jerks who attend exurban megachurches?

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                • We’re only smug because rednecks kept calling us that.

                  So really, rednecks should do some soul searching and ask what part they played in the rise of alt-smugness, the artisanal smugness we see.

                  Shouldn’t they reach out and actually talk to urban hipsters and try to understand them?

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      • Sure, and if this was an article discussing how those assumptions are unfair or musing on how both the media and the right wing media magnify the left’s flakier wing in a manner that they don’t do the same to the right’s nuttier wing or pondering where the line should be drawn between identity politics and liberalism and leftism that’d be useful. But this post mainly is about noting that it’s not just working class whites who deserve scorn for electing Trump. That is cathartic, sure, but it isn’t going to help.

        Heck, I get catharsis, I have written and deleted a ton of cathartic comments and even a guest post or two.

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        • I dunno. I mean, I peruse the Trump Regrets (Trumpget? Something like that) Tumblr mostly because, well, what’s the point of pointing out this was inevitable to people?

          It’s not like they’re gonna trust me, I’m a filthy liberal and a Clinton voter. My candidate was in thrall to a Pizza-based child abuse ring.

          On the other hand, if you’ve got a false — or one-sided — narrative, pushing back on it regularly is kind of key. It’s like a PR campaign where you don’t participate in PR.

          I’m afraid “I’m right” or “The facts support me” or even “The things you believe are literally more fictional than unicorns, which are at least vaguely like a horse which is a real thing” is insufficient.

          Plus hey, it’s probably JUST as important to realize why people who disagree violently with everything Trump says (aside from that “R” label) voted for him as to talk about how truly awful Clinton was.

          Something about knowing the enemy as well as yourself, you know?

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  5. First off, I’d just like to say that I continue to be amazed by the civil and insightful discourse on OT. It really does seem to be an enclave of sanity in a sea of lunacy.

    I can’t really write a lengthy response because I’m at work and on my ipod. But I’d like to point out that the intent of this article was semi-satrical, semi-serious. The caricature of the “angry upper-middle”–which seems to have generated more column inches than the caricature of the misguided intellectual–is no more ludicrous than that of the white working class or smug liberals. My point is that it’s harder to give these guys a pass because most of them have benefited so handsomely from the current political-economy. They’re not desperate, nor are they everyone’s favourite pejorative, “low information voters”.

    My other take-away is that Trump is not just another politician. He ran a gutter campaign that blew more dog whistles than an overworked shepherd, crassly mocking and threatening the disabled, Hispanics, Muslims, women, and so on in the process.

    My question is, how are the above (and then some) supposed to react?

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    • How are the people Trump foghorned disdain at during the campaign supposed to act? Well supposed is a complex word.

      If they wish to act in their interest then they should focus on the reality of Trump and his lackeys and GOP vassals. They should seek to persuade Trump (who, it seems, is highly liquid in his positions) to go back on all his campaign vitriol. They should seek to stymie and bedevil any legislating and rule making that he proposes that hurts their interests while offering to cooperate with him on policies that would help their interests.

      Outside the political arena, meanwhile, there’s probably room to ponder whether the tone of their/our advocacy and the memes and moores of our movements are helping or hindering our they’re/our political goals. Those goals, I’d rank in order of importance as:
      -Transmitting our beliefs and principles in an appealing fashion to newcomers/the young.
      -Advancing our policy goals.
      -Making it easier for that infuriating low info majority in the center to be reflexively friendly to or benignly indifferent to us.
      -Discouraging that same center from throwing their lot in with our opponents.
      -Not riling up or fuelling the passions of our opponents supporters.

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  6. To a conservative, a person claiming moral superiority over half the country and everyone in the past seems smug.

    To a liberal, a person claiming moral superiority over half the country and everyone in the future seems smug.

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  7. “Rural voters should expect our disdain when they’ve spent so much time vilifying us, calling us ‘smug’, talking about how we’re out of touch!” (turns around) “Oh so rural voters went for Trump because we said bad things about how they were ignorant racists? Seriously, they’re gonna make a rotten choice because we didn’t stroke their fee-fees enough?”

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    • Maybe the ideal is that people don’t insult each other or at least based on where they are from. Get to know people as individuals and dislike them based on that. But one sides ( where you come from sucks and your place is wrong) isn’t better then someone else’s. It’s all stupid.

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